Every year, a new crop of amazing talent comes into the league, each player thinking he's got what it takes to be one of the all-time greats. The statistics tell us that most of these rookies are out of the league in three years or less, on average.
Some end up on teams that are bad fits for their skill set. Some just aren't as good as they thought they were.
And others have bodies that break down on them. This decline is especially sad when the player in question is undoubtedly becoming a star, perhaps a future Hall Of Famer.
Hearing the news about Gilbert Arenas going under the knife again reminded me of other gifted players before him who showed stints of brilliance and then faded away in a rash of debilitating injuries:
Danny Manning- After being drafted #1 overall by the Clippers, Manning blew out his knee 26 games into his rookie season. He recovered to reach All Star status and then promptly tore the ACL on his OTHER knee. He retired after 13 seasons, having spent as much time on the IR as on the court.
Grant Hill- Through his first five seasons in Detroit, Hill had points, rebounds and assists numbers comparable to Oscar Robertson and Larry Bird. Then he broke his ankle so badly that doctors needed to rebreak it and fuse it to the leg. Then he was traded to Orlando, where his huge contract and brittle body made him the object of tremendous ridicule. Now he's missing games for Phoenix.
Derek Smith- You've probably never heard of Derek Smith but I put him on this list because he was a 20 ppg scorer and an All-Star for the Clippers before blowing out his knee. More importantly, he's credited with inventing the high five. Seriously.
So best of luck to Gilbert Arenas. I wish him a full recovery and the opportunity to realize his potential. Chances are, however, that we've seen the best of him already.